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Review by: Nick Stewart
Published: July 20, 2000
In order to truly make a mark upon the face of any industry, it’s absolutely critical to possess one quality in abundance: originality. This isn’t to say that uninventive products won’t succeed financially, as a great idea repeated a second time still remains a great idea. However, this reproduction is far less likely than the original to have an impact upon the course of history and the minds of those involved.
The digital entertainment industry is a great example of this phenomenon, as imitations of popular games rarely feature the same innovative flair as their predecessors. Might and Magic VI, for instance, stood as a creative break from the previous products in the series, while its two follow-up titles were so similar as to be largely forgettable. Nevertheless, there are some offerings that manage to make their presence known by simply adding a few creative twists to an existing concept. The racing genre is particularly prone to this effect, as its very nature necessitates a common element of competition. This can sometimes be a positive thing, as it was with Longbow Digital Arts’ highly entertaining, tank-racing Tread Marks, although it can also lead to incredibly dull and lifeless items such as Wizardworks’ Swamp Buggy Racing. Hoping to fit into the former category is the newcomer Hard Truck 2, a title that brings the previously unknown world of commercial trucking to the racing realm.
Arriving upon America’s shores from the Russian-based developer SoftLab, Hard Truck 2 boasts a premise that players are unlikely to have seen in this particular form. As a first-time trucker, it’s up to you to travel back and forth between the various interconnected cities of a small mountainous area, tracking down orders and delivering goods all the while. You’re not the only driver out there, however, as any number of other truckers are looking to make their fortune amongst the local hills and valleys, all of whom are operating under the watchful eye of the omnipresent police force. As such, you are constantly in aggressive competition to transport loads to needful cities, whose pay scale varies according to the order in which the delivery trucks arrive. Occasionally, you may also distract yourself by participating in out-and-out, set-course racing, provided you can arrive at the Circuit within a given amount of time. After you’ve accumulated enough money, you can search the various lots for bigger and better trucks, which in turn will allow you to carry larger and more profitable loads. These improvements will become crucial when you’re finally offered a company license, which you can use to hire other truckers to run orders for you. Once you’ve hired more than 51% of the local work force, you’ve conquered the market and have won the game. Unlike conventional racing titles, however, Hard Truck 2 has no set levels; the world is wide-open, and can be explored at your own pace. If you decide that you’d like to pick one order over another, then you may do so. If you’d like to take a break from working to hit the open road and travel from city to city, then you may do this as well. Whether you’ve got a nomadic spirit or a competitive one, you can live the type of life that best suits your mood.
No matter which path you choose, the heart of Hard Truck 2 lies within its delivery system. Each town features a small materials depot, which you must visit in order to gather information on outstanding orders, as well as the types, destinations, weight and time limit for each. After you’ve picked up one of the four available loads, you must head for the specified city as quickly as possible, lest you trail behind any trucks that may already be on the way. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, however, you might decide that making your way to a depot in order to find a job would take more time than it’s worth. To this end, you can track down and deliver trailers that have been left on the side of the road, provided your vehicle is equipped with the proper hook-up. The delivery system might seem simple enough, but this impression rapidly melts away when you factor in your hostile competitors and the highly aggressive police force.
No racing title is complete without a set of die-hard opponents, something that Hard Truck 2 delivers in spades. Local truckers are just as eager to dominate the market as you are, and aren’t afraid to show it. One minute, you’ll be driving happily along to your destination; the next, you could find yourself being rammed or run off the road by a particularly anxious foe. Their ambition doesn’t end there, as they, too, can hire underlings to scour the area for jobs, thereby increasing their share of the economy. In fact, if you’re not careful, they might even lure your own employees away from your company with the promise of better salaries. Despite these hazards, however, they’re not necessarily the worst of your worries, as the local police force can prove to be a considerable thorn in your side. Travelling the roads like every other motorist, the police are constantly looking to impose heavy fines for traffic violations, vehicular attacks, and other illegal activities. Their patrol helicopters are particularly dangerous to the would-be criminal, as they hover at given locations in order to catch speeders and smugglers. As if this wasn’t enough trouble, the Mafia also has its fingers in the commercial pie, as its minions roam the area, looking to kill truckers and to rob them of their cargo. All in all, the streets are fairly dangerous, and will rapidly bankrupt an unprepared player.
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